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So You Think Riding an Electric Motorcycle is Good for the Environment? It is a Complicated Topic …


Here at MD, we have had spirited debate about electric motorcycles. Some of the issues include the relatively short range offered by these vehicles and their high initial purchase price. Maybe you have been taking for granted that electric vehicles (both cars and motorcycles) are more climate-friendly than their ICE competitors.

To answer the last question, you must of course consider the entire carbon footprint, including but not limited to the source of the electricity used for the vehicle. Many states use dirty fuels such as coal and petroleum to generate a large percentage of the electricity available to electric vehicle owners. Furthermore, according to the study we are about to reference, electric automobiles (and the thinking may extend, to some extent, to electric motorcycles) start life with a large “carbon debt” as a result of “emissions from producing the battery and other electrical components.” In other words, it is dirtier to produce an electric car than an ICE car. That may, or may not hold true for motorcycles, but an analysis found at the Climate Central web site appears to offer very useful information broken down by states (did you know that Vermont creates cleaner electricity than any other state?). Here is the “Executive Summary” from the very lengthy Climate Central report:

An electric car is only as good for the climate as the electricity used to power it. And in states that rely heavily on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas for their electricity there are many conventional and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that are better for the climate than all-electric cars today.

But that is just part of the story. Another critical factor is the carbon emissions generated when a car is manufactured. Emissions from producing the battery and other electrical components create a 10,000 to 40,000-pound carbon debt for electric cars that can only be overcome after tens, or even hundreds of thousands of miles of driving and recharging from clean energy sources.

This comprehensive state-by-state analysis of the climate impacts of the electric car, plug-in hybrid electrics, and high-mileage, gas-powered hybrid cars takes both of these factors into account – the source of energy used to power the car and carbon emissions from vehicle manufacturing.

We found:

  • In 40 states, a high-efficiency, conventional gas-powered hybrid, like the Toyota Prius, is better for the climate (produces fewer total “lifecycle” carbon emissions) than the least-polluting, all-electric  vehicle, the Honda Fit, over the first 50,000 miles the car is driven.
  • In 26 states, an efficient plug-in hybrid is the most climate-friendly option (narrowly outperforming all-electrics in 10 states, assuming a 50:50 split between driving on gas and  electric for the plug-in hybrid), and in the other 24 states, a gas-powered car is the best. All- electrics and plug-in hybrids are best in states with green electrical grids with substantial amounts of hydro, nuclear and wind power that produce essentially no carbon emissions. Conventional hybrids are best in states where  electricity comes primarily from coal and natural gas.
  • For luxury sedans, in 46 states, the gas-powered Lexus ES hybrid is better for the climate than the electric Tesla Model S, over the first 100,000 miles the car is driven.

Of course, many “climate studies” are politically charged and biased. Our review of this study indicates to us it is fairly balanced, but your opinion may differ. Nevertheless, if you really want to know the facts about the full carbon footprint of electric vehicles, there is some very useful information in this study. Some of the charts contain fantastic summaries of electrical generation sources, state-by-state, for instance. If you don’t read the entire report (it is quite long), skim it and look at some of the charts.


  1. Excalibear says:

    What I learned from this study: I live In Utah where almost 100% of the electricity comes from coal and gas. If I just move 1 state over to Idaho, almost 100% of the electricity comes from hydro and other clean sources. I’m seriously considering a move.

  2. Mr.Mike says:

    This study is a good start but it contains one glaring omission: The emissions created during the manufacture and distribution of fossil fuels. I suspect the results might be quite different if they considered how much energy is consumed and carbon released to drill for oil, extract it from the ground, refine it and then distribute it (often from the other side of the planet) to your local gas station.

    Also, their calculations were based on a 100,000 mile lifespan for batteries. I read somewhere of Prius batteries lasting over 250,000 miles. I’m not sure if that is typical or an exceptional circumstance so I’ll give them as pass for now, but more work needs to be done by them to establish the actual lifespan of batteries.

  3. ed says:

    If you’re so danged (cleaned up) concerned about your carbon footprint why don’t you prove it and ride a bicycle. If I have to give up my DR650 it won’t be for an e bike.

    • Dave says:

      I do, about 6,000 mi/yr, though I admit my carbon footprint probably isn’t in the top-5 reasons why.

  4. Mars says:


    i drive a Nissan Leaf. I barely saw a change in my electric bill from it while driving 50-60 miles/day to/from work and charging on 220vac at home. it is def “cheaper” per mile than gasoline, and it’s fun to drive. not having gears feels great. just zoooooooommmmm……….

    nuclear power?

    to the tune of monty pythons “The Inquisition”

    what a show
    here ya go

    • Nothing like peak torque @ 0RPM!

      All the best,
      Aaron Lephart

      • todd says:

        Huh? How strong can something be if it can’t even turn 1 rpm. You’re not going anywhere at zero rpm. A million foot pounds of torque at zero rpm is zero horsepower. Sounds weak to me. I’d rather have something that can actually move!

  5. patsplat says:

    A lot of you have great points. I appreciate the effort of some companies to reduce ICE’s and produce an alternative. It has made the automobile industry realize how wasteful ECI’s use to be. We need to evolve to save this planet. I think that is clear now. The answer is not the battery. It is poison and it too destroys the environment. Just like solar panels great idea, but poisons the environment during the manufacturing process. The answer is WATER. Take water, are most abundant resource; split the molecules and bam! It becomes hydrogen and Oxygen. Iceland has got the right idea. Check out what there doing with water and hydrogen.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Take water, are most abundant resource; split the molecules and bam! It becomes hydrogen and Oxygen.”

      see, it’s not that simple. it takes a fair amount of energy to break apart any molecule of water.

      (quick Chem 075 primer)

      Hydrogen and Oxygen are 2 non-metals fused by what’s known as a Covalent bond. compare this to the relatively weak Ionic bonds formed between metals and non-metals where electrons are simply shared.

      take sodium (a metal) and chlorine (a non-metal) for example…? we all know ordinary crystalline table salt poured into a glass of water quickly dissolves right…? exactly, the bonds break apart leaving disassociated ions in the solution. ezpeezee japaneezee.

      however (comma) the takeaway the average joe needs to understand here is the energy to break any bond is DIRECTLY proportional to the energy contained within the bond itself. salt dissolves because the attractions are weak. water doesn’t readily dissolve because the attractions are STRONG. see, no free lunch. now you might think this is something limited to the microscopic level, but have you ever notice this is a reoccurring theme at the MACRO-scopic level of everyday life…?

      right then, the Universe says you can have your fill of “free lunch” when you PRY IT FROM IT’S COLD DEAD FINGERS.

  6. Mike says:

    What happens to the EV’s carbon debt when the batteries need to be replaced? And is more carbon dept added for the recycling of the prior batteries? I don’t see any data on this important subject.

  7. YellowDuck says:

    Having now had the time to actually read the report, I have got to say…it doesn’t read so much as an indictment of EVs, as an expose on the need to continue to upgrade electricity generation technology in the US. Use more coal, electric vehicles look worse, go to natural gas, they look better, rely on nuclear and renewables, EVs start to look really good.

    We all know which way the generation technology is going. This actually looks really good for the future of EVs in my opinion.

    • Daytona James says:

      You’re so right YellowDuck – Upgraded electricity generation IS the future. Germany just announced that they now get 74% of their electricity from both solar and wind generation. If Harper and Obama would grow a pair with this, the greatest challenge mankind has ever faced, we’d be on our way to solving the apocalyptic warming that we’ve caused. For you deniers out there, pull your heads out of the sand and quit calling scientists ‘zealots’ while you’re at it. They use the very metered language of science to support their research, whereas big oil, politicians and stockholders use ambiguity, half-truths, and embellishment to support their argument… and bottom lines. Science has no agenda here other than to divert from the lemming path. Big oil, their lobbyists, and politicians on the other hand, stand to profit enormously from biz-as-usual. If we rallied to the challenge of restructuring our energy economy around renewables NOW… on the scale and urgency that we did with, say, putting a man on the moon in the 60’s, we could move away from this perilous edge of weather disaster. Weather will either be our survival or our extinction.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        I don’t think any action will move us away from the “perilous edge of weather disaster”, and frankly, I don’t think that edge is as perilous as many would have us believe. For all we know, a warmer globe may be better for human existence overall.

        Regardless, I would also like to see very aggressive movement towards renewable energy generation.

        • Gary says:

          You should really get out more. Like maybe Beijing. In the summer. Spend a few weeks. Then come back and tell us how peachy things are. I guarantee you it will change your outlook.

          Or Manila. Take a boat ride in the harbor. Try to decide whether you are floating on seawater or garbage.

          Not sure warming will kill us, but we are certainly fouling our own nest.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I’ve been to both of those places and many more 3rd-world areas, and the pollution is truly shocking. However, that is an entirely different “perilous edge” than the one Daytona James was talking about. What you describe is a situation in which electric vehicles can truly have an impact on in a relatively short period of time depending on how aggressive people want to get about improving their world.

          • todd says:

            Who knows, maybe it will be warm enough to start building summer houses in Antarctica. Maybe we could create a new country there, with different rules.

          • Gary says:

            Jeremy … there is actually an ordinance in Beijing that requires all scooters to be electric. They whiz around all over town. The problem is, the electric grid there is 90 percent coal-driven. The air quality is shocking (no pun). I’ve never seen anything like it.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I have never seen smog like Beijing. It’s like the old photos of Pittsburg in the 1940’s. I was not aware of the electric scooter ordinance. Is that relatively new? Last time I was there (2006 maybe?), there was a BAN on electric scooters. It certainly defeats the purpose if they are running on coal, though I’d wager the result is still better than a 2-stroke.

          • Gary says:

            The ordinance was put in place just before the Beijing Olympics in ’08. It was a last-ditch effort to clean up the air just before the world discovered that you can cut the atmosphere in Beijing with a butter knife.

            But they forgot about the coal-fired generators, and as a result it had not much positive effect.

          • Jim B says:

            That 74% production was for ONLY ONE DAY! And it was a Sunday (May 11, 2014) so most heavy industrial users were shut down. Over the past year, Germany has created 25% of it’s electrical needs from renewables, while the US has created 13% of it’s needs that way. So we’re not THAT far behind, really. Germany is also in the process of building more coal power plants, which are needed to fill the void the nuclear plants will leave when they shut down by 2020?

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “rely on nuclear … EVs start to look really good.”

      so long as we keep in mind that whole SPENT FUEL ROD and eventual “not in my backyard” thing.

    • Well said YellowDuck!

      Here is my end of year totals last year for SCE power generation over what I consumed!

      All the best,
      Aaron Lephart

    • Dirck Edge says:

      What a concept! Actually reading the report before commenting. You might be the only one.

  8. Crug says:

    So we need to move ourselves faster than we can walk, preferably with some fun, but can’t destroy the planet with their creation or use….
    We could go back to horses…thats alot of crap to deal with though
    teleportation, not been invented yet
    mass transit…ha, get real

    There must be something we could use that can move pistons up and down…

  9. Fangit says:

    Electric vehicles in of themselves can’t reduce CO2 emmissions without the power used to charge them being from zero or low CO2 emmissions plants. I would have thought that is obvious. We need to accelerate the change of our power plants over to renewables and electric vehicles prove we can do very well without hydrocarbon burning engines in cars. They can already still be very effective, such as where the owner has solar power generation at home or work as is becoming much more common these days. The consumer can do their part and the energy companies with a prod from government need to be made to do their part.

    • Bryan Whitton says:

      This is so bogus. First of all the conversion of coal or natural gas in stationary plants is MUCH more efficient than the conversion of gasoline in cars or bikes. 2nd, it takes an average of 4.9 kWh of electricity to manufacture 1 gallon of gasoline, so the evolution from ICE vehicles to electric vehicles is nearly transparent with regards to electrical consumption. 3rd, electric vehicles are nearly 5 times more efficient than ICE vehicles in the conversion of power to motion.

  10. falcodoug says:

    Wow, people getting pretty excited about this one.

    • Hair says:

      These days there is a lot to get excited about. I hope that in the future I will have an E bike with two battery packs. One for the bike and the other on a solar charging system. I will have the bike for daily riding and fun time. And the battery pack will be a quick change out for days that i might not need to recharge via the power grid.

      I honestly believe that my next new bike will be an E-bike.

      • Bryan Whitton says:

        Yep! test rode the Zero SR a couple of weeks ago to see if it would replace my DL650. Power = 10 out of 10. Suspension 7 out of 10. comfort 6 out of 10, but could easily be improved. I am old and just putting in risers for the handlebars would be a vast improvement.

  11. Michel Desjardins says:

    Climate is changing.
    Petrol is getting more expensive.
    Solar, wind, tidal, hydro, even nuclear power sources exist.
    We need petrol for lots of other use than combustion: look at the plastic aroud you.
    I welcome electric vehicles, it is a progress in the process.
    That they are toys or necessity is not the point, this is the same with ICE.

  12. scooby says:

    In response to iliketoeat’s post about the glaciers in the antarctic melting:

    I won’t, however, call anyone an idiot like he did.

  13. Rod says:

    Unlike gas-fired power stations, coal furnaces can’t be stopped or slowed quickly so they run them all night when there’s little demand from industry or domestically. So charging your car or bike overnight has zero impact on what they’re burning at the moment. If there were tens of thousands of electric vehicles charging they might have to increase power output overnight to meet demand but that’s a very long way off. Robert Llewellyn did an interesting interview with a UK authority that had to plan and balance power production (gas, coal, solar, wind and from other countries) and demand by day, night and by season on Fully Charged website show.

    • In SoCal you have net metering to contend with. So even if the actual pollution is the same, you are charged different rates for “off peak” electricity usage. Depending on your “Tier” it starts at .16 and goes up to .35 per KWh. That’s for peak usage which at this time of year is 12-6pm. All other hours are at a fixed .11 per KWh.

      All the best,
      Aaron Lephart

  14. Jeremy in TX says:

    I don’t think most sensible people argue against a warmer Earth – there was an Ice Age a while back complete with woolly mammoths, so things have obviously changed for the warmer over the long haul. The real debate centers more around:

    1) Is this cyclically normal, or
    2) Are human actions causing and abnormal spike in temperature?

    I’ve seen compelling data for both arguments, but when the experts and proponents of both sides tend to be made up of 80% zealots, it is hard to imagine ever really getting to the bottom of the matter. No one knows for sure right now, and I highly doubt any changes we made would make a difference if option 2 were the reality anyway.

    Regardless of which way one leans, there are are still other compelling arguments to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels. Electric vehicles just aren’t at a point yet to compel me to make that change, and the technological and financial hurdles to get there are still pretty considerable.

    • Gary says:

      There have been warming and cooling periods for as long as there has been a planet. It gets hot and the glaciers melt. Then it gets cold and the glaciers advance. Then it gets hot. Etc., etc. At one point New York City was buried beneath 90 feet of solid ice.

      What is different about this warming cycle is how fast it is happening. You can look back through geo history and see that it has never gotten warm as fast. Most people attribute the rapid onset of this warming cycle on industrialization. But that’s impossible to prove, because it has never happened before.

      You can argue the cause of warming all you want. You can also argue that at this point it is not reversible. Might as well live it up. We’re beyond the tipping point.

      But people who argue that we are not going through a global warming phase just look like idiots.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Can’t argue with any of that.

      • Andrew150 says:

        Recently released research shows that the last 10 years there has been no increase in the planets temperatures.

        I think the technology is great but to use “global warming” as a way to try and promote it makes it a bit repugnant.

        Here is an interesting paper done by the CIA in the 1970’s about the “global cooling ” alarmists. I remember this as I lived through this time period.

        Scientists have shot themselves in the foot by lying and misleading people and not allowing open discussion and debate on the subject so we all lose. (As is the case with many topics that need to be discussed and debated) To argue as though you have the “real truth” is just absurd and intellectually false. You can believe what you want but no one has any special insight into this.

        • Dirck Edge says:

          Including you?

        • Sands says:

          Excellent point…I remember the global cooling thing too…How short the masses memories are….the truth is a lot of this is centered around big money “carbon credit” derivative trading which basically caused the collapse of Enron with the CEO lying and denying all the way till the day of bankruptcy which resulted in huge losses for the average guy and employees who had no idea what was going on,and huge profits for those on the other side of the trade.

    • Peter says:

      My thoughts exactly. I have stated it in nearly the same words to many folks. We don’t really know what portion is caused by man. Undeniable that some portion is natural and a portion could be man-made. I certainly don’t think it is worth committing economic suicide in order to speed up the process of “going green”. I hope we don’t enact too many regulations which will force jobs and production from the States to countries who will pollute worse than we would without new regulations. Effectively, over-regulating could kill economies and could cause MORE global pollution if those products are produced in China for example.

      Too many people are ignorant of the entire carbon footprint of various technologies. On the surface, an electric vehicle uses no fossil fuels, it must be better right? Well, many rare earth metals used in the electric motors are mined in China, one of the dirties countries in the world. Another example, Ethanol is from plants which can grow back every year, it must be better right? I see tractors working fields here in Iowa that are using a ton of diesel fuel in order to produce that crop!

  15. Marshall says:

    I learned from this post that if you charge your electric vehicle from the local coal powered plant, that your carbon footprint is worse than if you’re on hyrdo, wind, nuclear, or solar. Big surprise there. That’s 8th grade chemistry I believe. Global warming isn’t a ‘mantra’ or a ‘myth’ made up by liberal kooks. It’s a hard, accepted scientific fact. Electrics give us flexibility to choose where we get our power here on our grid.

  16. Gary says:

    “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad.”
    The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903

    “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.”
    Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, British Post Office, 1878.

    “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
    Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. 1977

    “The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most.”
    IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production, 1959.

    “The cinema is little more than a fad. It’s canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage.”
    Charlie Chaplin, actor, producer, director, and studio founder, 1916

    “Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”
    Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946

    • xootrx says:

      One of my all time favorites comes from the late 60’s, after the announcement that Honda was coming out with a 750cc four cylinder bike. It was from the a member of the Davidson family (of Harley-Davidson): “Americans will never buy a four cylinder motorcycle.”

      I remember reading it, all over the motorcycling press back then, but I can’t find it now.

  17. Gary says:

    Here is the long and short of it.

    The short: There is a finite supply of fossil fuels.

    More short: If we rely on internal combustion only, we give up on the ideal of more renewable energy.

    The long: We are not there yet. Hardly. There is a large path toward more sustainable energy sources, and that past must include consideration of manufacturing and distribution issues.

    Does this mean we should give up on advancing the science? No more than we should have abandoned horse carriages for Model Ts.

    • Blackcayman says:

      They found more oil in Australia than there ever was in Saudi Arabia – We keep finding and accessing more oil and natural gas here in the USA and all over the world.

      We will have sufficient for our needs for the next 50 -100 years.

      That should give the science guys time to more significantly harness the power of the sun and be able to store it in more efficient batteries.

      Also, ocean waves could generate power 24/7 no matter if the sun is shinning! There is also tidal power generation.

    • TexinOhio says:

      Yep, what the Cayman said. Nobody is saying abandon advancing science. Just make it work right before we run around plugging oil wells.

  18. Pedro Diaz MD says:

    Thank you, finally, someone has the cojones to tell it like it is.

    • Gary says:

      By “telling it like it is” you mean “offering a view that aligns with mine.”

      There are other views on this topic. Some would argue that they also “tell it like it is.”

  19. chasejj says:

    Aaron-You seem to be a slave to your own arrogance in these posts. You cannot resist sweeping negative inferences to any skeptical opinions. ie. “Not embracing electric vehicle technology has become an exercise in gravity defiance”.
    It is clear you are heavily invested in this as are many. The proclamations of impending climate disaster seem to be coming at an increasing rate as the lies of the Warmistas keep being exposed and their real agenda-complete control of all the levels of industry and therefore people-MARXISM is clearly apparent.
    At the end of the day Evehicles are nothing more than an expensive hobby for the smug and self righteous wannabe intellectuals and the industry types looking to capitalize on the sentiments of this group of consumers.
    There, I said it.

    • Dave says:

      Re: “There, I said it.”

      You did, and you can put your tin-foil hat back on now..

    • Sands says:

      Finally, someone who knows what they’re talking about….The irony is that the warming alarmists call themselves the “green” movement….If they truly were “green” they would desire MORE C02, not less…It’s a scientific fact and easily repeatable that increasing carbon dioxide in the air Increases vegetative growth of plants by a large amount….
      How the climate change groups are associated with being intellectual is beyond me (perhaps inserting the phony science into colleges) and it’s far from being intellectual and you have wannabe intellectuals running around repeating the same stuff…..Anyone that really understands science see the global warming mantra as a strange joke…

      • Blackcayman says:

        Not one of the greenies really cares about plants and trees – which breath in the CO2!

        You go Sands!

      • Dave says:

        Re: “It’s a scientific fact and easily repeatable that increasing carbon dioxide in the air Increases vegetative growth of plants by a large amount”

        Does that take into account a parasite that is incredibly efficient at removing vegetation from landscapes (humans)? If not, are the plants that proliferate edible? Because farmers are having a bear of a time with conditions now.

      • Neutron73 says:

        The very pervaisve anti-global warming, “screw electric bikes ‘cuz the suck”, anti-enviromental bent in this thread is disheartening.

        No wonder we are doomed.

        • Sands says:

          It’s not anti environmental….There are REAL environmental threats and they need to be addressed but those real concerns are not at the forefront of exposure….It’s the phony C02 scare getting all the attention in which a huge carbon credit trading platform has been developed so that big money can be made by some politically connected individuals which would not lead to a reduction in C02, but a siphoning of money out of every pocket on earth….

          How about “green” nuclear power….hardly green when one of those plants goes off and 100’s of square miles become uninhabitable and people a thousand miles away begin developing cancer years after the event…

          C02 is the least of our worries…..

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “an expensive hobby for the smug and self righteous wannabe intellectuals and the industry types looking to capitalize on the sentiments of this group of consumers.”

      you missed a group. the genuinely good people (like my ex-wife) who value doing the right thing, but for whom matters of science and technology aren’t their forte nor have time to figure it out. she was however a “human GPS”, I could struggle with a paper map in broad daylight.

    • iliketoeat says:

      Glaciers in Antarctica are melting faster and faster, and you STILL think that global warming isn’t real?
      Ignoring facts because they don’t agree with your ideology takes a special kind of idiocy.

    • ROXX says:

      Well said.
      I’m sure John Kerry, Al Gore and other celebrity/politicians really care while they’re flying all over the world and purchasing beach front mansions.
      For the record, the planet’s temps have not gone up in 17 years, hence the revisionists “global climate change” from “global warming”.
      Too bad the “sky is falling” crowd took over the learning institutions a couple of decades ago.

  20. Dave says:

    If we had a developed rail system, or hadn’t allowed the auto industry to buy and bury the one we did have, then shorter range electric vehicles would already be more viable. Today a large number of motorists drive too far because of an infrastructure that was built on the promise of cheap gasoline.

    Even so, an EV with a range of 50 miles/charge could work for a great many people. If we can get over a tipping point where volumes climb, prices can and will drop a great deal. $2k electric scooters with 30-50 mile range already exist for urban use. It’s not a great stretch to believe the Zero in the photo above could come in at the same price as an equivalent ICE bike in the near future.

  21. Noah says:

    You can have a lot of fun with these kinds of numbers.

    I once calculated that my electric motorcycle is actually better for the environment than riding a bicycle. Why? Because the energy for riding the bicycle comes from me, which comes from food. Making food uses fossil fuels and produces emissions – a lot. More than the electricity to power my bike, as it turns out.

    Basically, I’e got a pretty long tailpipe.

  22. dino says:

    As with most things in life, there IS no free lunch. We should just try to step away from the Buffet once in a while.

    Electrics aren’t THE answer, but maybe they are part of the answer. Let the scientists and eager consumers work with that, and all of our options. Gas engines are getting more efficient, but electrics are getting stronger and more range as well.

    An exciting time to be alive, and to live in a free society where we have CHOICES of transportation, and choices for recreation!

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “no free lunch”

      and there it is, my patented “go to”.

      ladies and gentleman, while you “spin your wheels” (pun intended) debating the merits of THIS vs. THAT, I’m here to tell you (yet again) in the grand scheme, no technology has any more merit or any more disadvantage than the other.


      because the Laws governing the Universe DON’T ALLOW FOR IT. it just doesn’t. it only allows for balance. the more you know about the Math, the Physics, the Chemistry that “underwrite” all this, the more you will come to see it’s just one big “Cosmic Shell Game”.

      • Dirck Edge says:

        Great post, Norm.

      • Asphanaut says:

        Norm you state a very good principal to keep in mind. There is a theoretical minimum amout of energy to get something from here to there and to make this from that – it doesn’t matter if the energy is chemical, electrical, physical, or nuclear the theoretical minimum is the same. So it’s all about which combination of technologies gets closest to the theoretical minimum. But even if that is achieved the conversion of energy will always change something and hence becomes a tradeoff between desirable and undesirable effects… which challenges the human intellect (even ones relatively free from bias) to distinguish between the two and make good choices. So, in more conventional jargon, yeah we’ll pretty much screw things up until we screw ourselves and then we’ll pay for it and a new balance will be achieved.

      • Blackcayman says:

        Norm just blew a bunch of young minds

      • iliketoeat says:

        Right, and that’s why we all ride horses and horse-drawn carriages and light our houses with candles. Because no technology has any more merit or any more advantage than the other.

        • Asphanaut says:

          “Merit” and “advantage” is relative to who/what is impacted. If I’m reading Norm’s comments correctly his persepctive considers a broader scope than the just the human condition – especially just those making/selling/using new technologies. In the bigger “cosmic” scope … there are many parts of nature that would probably be better of if we all rode horses and lit our houses with candles… not that I’m going to start doing that since from my perspective my ICE motorcycle and light bulbs are vast improvement over horse-drawn carriages and candles.

          • iliketoeat says:

            Sure, he’s talking about a wider perspective, but the usefulness of this wider perspective is very limited. In the wider perspective, we’re all an infinitesimally small blip in the universe.

  23. Nate says:

    There is a lot of confusion on this topic because so many people appear to think that electricity is in endless supply and is somehow immune to the iron law of supply and demand.

    Dumping tens of thousands of electric cars or motorcycles onto the roads would cause the price of electricity to sky rocket.

    Proponents of such things love to sell it like its a free lunch, but there is no such thing. So you are sick of spending 200 a month on gas? If everyone switched to electric vehicles your power bill would go up a lot more than 200 bucks a month. We have states with rolling blackouts because they already cannot meet the demand on our power grid.

    And these people want to add another layer of massive demand pressure on top of that?


    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Proponents of such things love to sell it like its a free lunch”

      and they don’t even have to sell it ’cause at this point, free lunch (in all arenas) sells itself.

      the mere thoughts of it are exhilarating, intoxicating. I joke, but ironically it’s not unlike Homer Simpson with chocolate mousse…

  24. Mike says:

    Global warming is a lie and a scam designed to get people to buy into the carbon credits markets, and thus have yet another tax levied upon us. The earth has been cooling the last 18 years. Solar flares have a greater effect on our temperatures than anything man does.

    Peak oil is a myth perpetuated to reinforce global warming.

    Nevertheless, we should clean-up our environment. Starting with eliminating the consumption of processed, non-organic foods. Buying these products supports a huge chemical industry that puts more pollution in our environment than all the ICE’s out there.

    Electric-powered vehicles should be pursued but, they don’t yet offer us anything we don’t already have.

    • denny says:

      You are politically incorrect, part of being right. Do you know that?
      Yes, electric vehicles are great since they do not share air with our lungs, BUT they should be limited strictly to utility vehicles (that includes passenger ones for transport purposes). No motorcycles under any circumstance!

    • Blackcayman says:

      I’ll tell you what’s not a myth – Algore has made 100’s of Millions selling this new religion to the godless Millenials Generation as well as the dupable 40s – 50s and beyond!

      “Never mind that the hockey stick is going the wrong way for this last decade and beyond – lets change the name to Global Climate Change!”.

      EVEN if it wasn’t a Complete Fraud – The Chinese, The Indians, The Russians and Every other country that isn’t blinded by this absurdity ISN’T going to do anything!!! So we would be killing our own economy for nothing but to satisfy the whims of whackos.

      That’s all I have to say about this…..for now

      • Dave says:

        The Chinese, Russians, and Indians will have to do something aboutthis “absurdity” for different reasons- they’re literally killing their populations in major cities with pollution and saddling themselves with the costs of their healthcare.

        You don’t want to believe climate is a real and present problem, fine. I hope you’ll be good enough to stay out of the way of people and companies that do and work to do something about it. Maybe they’ll share their clean drinking water with you someday.

        • todd says:

          Right. And we all should be looking for ways to decrease the mortality rate in overpopulated areas because…

        • Blackcayman says:

          Dave, if you belive in Man Made Global Warming you are a buffoon. Science knows what it knows today. Very soon they will know something else, rendenering what they knew today as nonsense.

          So NO, we won’t sit idly by while you Greenies try to force our country to adopy Economy Killing measures to try to change the average temperature of the earth by one tenth of a degree over 100 years.

          Have you seen the hockey stik lately? Why haven’t you adressed how much of a fraud thos conclusions are?

          NONE of your beloved GREEIE Scientists can tell me what the weather will be like a month or a week from now. The Hubris of thinking you can predict what will happen 100s and 100s of years from now based on your hockey stick is SHOCKING to us normal people.

          • Blackcayman says:

            this is for you readers of more than a Twiter post (more commonly called people over 30):


          • Blackcayman says:

            Oh Snap: CO2 continues to rise while temps don’t!


            “Our Hockey stick is broken – but lets just keep pushing it anyway”

          • Blackcayman says:

            I’m just sure Clod Fusion will solve everything

          • Dave says:

            Science does know what it knows today. It knows ocean and air temperatures are rising faster than at any other point in measurable history. It knows that human activity is having an influence on it. It knows that fossil fuels are becoming more expensive to extract from the ground ($60/bbl shale oil anyone?). These are facts.

            Poor crop yields, historic storm activity & damage, annual snow-pack declines, pacific fish loss (to jellyfish bloom) are examples of plainly observable evidence.

            What makes you think the economy will be “killed” by changing the way we make and use energy? Most of the current methods are heavily subsidized (to stay cheap & ear your votes..). If we take the lead on this thing we can be the global leader in these new technologies. Right now our economy is largely based on people buying a lot of stuff they don’t need.

          • Dirck Edge says:

            Blackcayman:Two points. Agreeing with 95 percent of climate scientists is actually pretty reasonable to “normal people”. Second, don’t use name calling to make your point or you won’t be allowed to participate here. Show respect to other MD readers or go somewhere else.

          • Blackcayman says:

            I’ve been put in my place – my passions got the best of me.

            Peace out

  25. John Bryan says:

    Here’s the “Great Divide” when it comes to anthropomorphic climate change – which side wants to completely reorder the economies of the nations contributing the most carbon? And by “reorder” they mean take property (money earned by doing something – and yes, investing equals doing something) and give it to nations contributing less carbon to the atmosphere (or even carbon into the oceans).

    Can you see what that does? That disincentivizes innovation and investment – and don’t kid yourselves, without incentives nobody is going to invest anything in new technologies to make energy utilization more efficient or economical. Governments only do the R&D thing well when there’s an existential threat – let’s face it, no matter how much the climate change advocates try to invoke wartime emotions the masses are not looking at climate change as a threat to their very lives.

    Two questions should come to mind when you discuss climate change – who has an agenda beyond ensuring current human activity doesn’t disrupt future human activity and who has a vested interest (acquiring money, power, political capital, etc.) in furthering their view point?

  26. denny says:

    Orwellian electric motos are pointless subject (well almost) and never will be truly loved.
    – not a mechanical device
    – no power assuring rumble
    – no shiny exhausts to show
    – eat up energy in different form (produced by coal or oil)
    – very expensive to buy, to point of ludicrous

    • bikerrandy says:

      This reminds me of the `60’s @ Riverside Raceway watching CanAm cars and 1 of them had a turbo motor. When all the other cars went by you could hear the roar of their motors. When the turbo car went by all you heard was the wind around it’s body. What a disappointment that was! Shortly thereafter the turbo was no longer accepted as a race design.

  27. thoppa says:

    I’ve read a few articles that look at vehicle life-cycles, resources use, production, recycling, replacement, etc and came to the same conclusions this report does so I don’t think electric vehicles are a solution to environmental problems. The best solution is to reduce private travel.

    Electric vehicles seem to address another issue – peak oil and diminishing oil resources – because at some point people won’t have the choice of electric or gas.

    • As with any new technology the numbers change greatly as the number of vehicles grow. What was an accurate statement when the technology was first introduced is not when hundreds of thousands are produced.

      All the best,
      Aaron Lephart

      • thoppa says:

        The point is to reduce the number of private vehicles and private journeys not change from one polluting technology to another. That’s if you care about the environment. I’m not sure I care about it enough to change my lifestyle and I suspect the rest of humanity is that way too, so the environment is pretty much fkuced anyway.

  28. John A. Kuzmenko says:

    Ever since I was told that I was “hurting the environment” by riding my dirt bike in a gravel bank (with heavy equipment on site), I decided that:

    Environmentalism = SCAM


    Environmentalism = PROPAGANDA

    I’m never going to believe that a group of guys who see the potential to make a lot of money are going to leave a spot on Earth “pristine” and pass the opportunity by for the sake of the “environment”.
    They just won’t tell you about it.

    Can anbody refresh my memory and cite the “ozone hole theory”?

  29. azi says:

    I’m not qualified to contribute anything of substance to this EV debate, but I’m a bit miffed that my new hatchback, a Mazda 3, gets better mileage (45mpg) than my old VFR800. That’s pretty amazing, and also a little depressing. The only way I can get better mileage out of a two wheeler is if I get one of those NC700 things, something less than 500cc, or a Vespa. The viffer would regularly get down to 38-39mpg with daily peak hour commuting.

    • Brian says:

      It does seem kind of amazing…but when you consider the performance bias of most motorcycles, along with their comparatively poor aerodynamics, it makes more sense.

      Another thing to consider is the fact that once you’re up in the 40 and 50 mpg range, a 5 or 10 mpg increase in fuel economy means a lot less in terms of actual fuel use than it does in the 10 or 20 mpg range. For example, if you go from a vehicle that gets 10mpg to one that gets 20mpg, you burn 5 gallons less fuel over 100 miles. But if you go from a vehicle that gets 40mpg to one that gets 50mpg, you only burn 0.5 gallons less over that same 100 miles–only 10% as much fuel saved despite the same 10mpg increase. That’s why a lot of people think we’d be better off publishing fuel mileage in terms of GPM, rather than MPG.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “poor aerodynamics”

        piss poor aero, GV of weight distribution, contact patch size, rolling resistance, etc.

        while an F1 car and a MotoGP bike are both consider the “elite class” of racing, from a perspective of engineering and vehicle dynamics they’re almost at OPPOSITE ends of the spectrum.

      • azi says:

        Some good points there Brian, especially the performance tuning & aerodynamics differences.

        Perhaps the electric motorcycle and car marketing discourse should be more about performance potential (which continues to climb as time passes) rather than the environmental side of things. The seat-of-the-pants experience doesn’t require as much rationalizing to impress unbelievers!

        “Buy an electric motorcycle because it’s just fast”

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “Perhaps the electric motorcycle and car marketing discourse should be more about performance potential (which continues to climb as time passes) rather than the environmental side of things.”

          no it’s okay, “environment” can and should be included in the discourse, it just has to be an ACCURATE discourse. a discourse that includes terms like “energy”, “transfer”, “displace”, and “conversion”.

          example: for the sake of local air quality, I would LOVE to see an all electric taxi system in dense population areas like LA or NY. yup, so long as we understand going in, at no point does the net ENERGY required to move those millions from point A to point B ever change.

          all’s we are doing is simply changing the “when” and “where” of the CONVERSION process, and DISPLACING the by-products (pollutants) to some other location we may (or may not) have any knowledge of.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “but I’m a bit miffed that my new hatchback, a Mazda 3, gets better mileage (45mpg) than my old VFR800.”

      don’t be. you’re only “miffed” by virtue of NOT being in possession of all the facts. no worries, you’re in good company. like the man said, “it’s a complicated topic”…

      …which it is. (Anton Chigurh voice)

    • Having ridden a NC700X I have to say its not anything like you would expect a bike to be. With a low RPM redline you find yourself short shifting it everywhere. It may take some getting used to but the usable RPM band is very narrow.

      All the best,
      Aaron Lephart

      • azi says:

        Thanks for the comment Aaron – interesting to hear your experiences about the NC700. In AU it’s priced in a highly competitive segment with other econo-urban models such as 300-500cc scooters, dualsports, and middleweight twins. Very tough to make a choice out of this wide selection, with each model having distinct personalities (or lack of personalities!).

        • I am curious to try the DCT/ABS model NC700. Although that takes even more “fun” out of the riding experience it may turn out to be more enjoyable as the quick shifting of the DCT and the computer making the decisions would allow you to focus on driving!

          On another note I have seen websites reference the NC700 motor as being loosely engineered of the 1.5L Honda Fit engine. But I don’t see a lot of similarities other then bore/stroke.

          All the best,
          Aaron Lephart

    • Dave says:

      It’s a classic example of using a high performance engine in lower power demand situations. The reason the NC700 gets such great mileage is because the engine is optimized for running at the power levels most often used by a regular commuting rider, damn be the peak hp figure on the spec sheet.

      It’s a bit of an obstacle when the moto-media disparages a model for not breaking the magic 100hp/liter output figure without giving equal (greater?) attention to a bike’s spectacular efficiency.

      • I do wish the NC750 gets brought over to the USA for 2015 model year. The little bump in power and torque would go a long way.

        All the best,
        Aaron Lephart

    • bikerrandy says:

      If a rider is really concerned(like me) about the mpg they get from their vehicle, they can get comparable bikes, scooters like my 400 MP3(60 mpg) or MZ 660 single (65mpg) that are freeway legal and are capable of 90 mph.

  30. fastship says:

    The CO2/global warming argument obscures all other environmental issues. With regard to electric vehicles the damage to the environment caused by mineral mining unique to the manufacture of electric vehicles is a case in point.

    With supreme irony the number one source for lithium used in these vehicles’ battery packs is the Atacama desert, one of the most pristine, delicate environments on this planet. In places it has not rained here in two lifetimes yet lithium mining requires extreme water use abstracted from deep beneath the ground, never replenished to the obvious detriment of the local eco system not to mention the few indigenous people who scratch a subsistence living here.

    The self righteous, smug EV driving eco zealots look the other way when these issues are highlighted but you might as well flood the pristine, white salt plain that is the Salar de Atacama with filthy black crude oil. BP did less to the Gulf of Mexico and look what the US is doing to that company.

    • Another great source of lithium is the vast area in Bolivia.

      And they are even starting to extract it from seawater!

      All the best,
      Aaron Lephart

    • Gronde says:

      This > “The self righteous, smug EV driving eco zealots look the other way when these issues are highlighted but you might as well flood the pristine, white salt plain that is the Salar de Atacama with filthy black crude oil. BP did less to the Gulf of Mexico and look what the US is doing to that company.”

  31. VLJ says:

    “Do you really want to be putting money in the pockets of people overseas who would just as soon see us dead?”

    Wow. I know there are people out there in Cyberland who blame Honda for everything from the inexplicable popularity of the Kardashians to the suspiciously recalcitrant bidet in Jorge Lorenzo’s palatial motorhome, but now we’re to believe that Big Red is also in cahoots with al-Qaeda?

    Those evil bastards!

    (And yes, I realize you’re referring not to Japan, Inc., but rather to Big Oil in the Middle East. Sorry. I just couldn’t resist.)


  32. Mark G says:

    Aaron you are very long on theory and claims, and woefully short on substantiated facts, and data.

    Speaking of Edison, need I remind you this is the same organization that spent hundreds of millions upgrading the San Onofre Nuclear plant, then within two years deciding to scrap it.

    You need to take your own advice on being un-biased.

    • Yes, like I mentioned I do not have a source for the article in question, so take it as hearsay.

      About S.O.N.G.S., they scrapped it for a number of reasons. They are in litigation with Mitsubishi who claims the power plant was designed from the get go with improper cooling system. And along with that goes the increased source of renewable projects either approved or online which negate the power plant.

      All the best,
      Aaron Lephart

      • Ed says:

        The only problem Aaron, is that they will be building 2-4 gas plants to fill the gap. So much for your “renewable” theory. SCE has already requested the go-ahead for these projects.

        • They requested to build them, doesn’t mean they actually will.

          Just like when they request the permission for a rate increase. They don’t HAVE to (though they often do).

          All the best,
          Aaron Lephart

  33. chasejj says:

    Aaron- your post is typical of those that buy into the fraud of global warming/climate change. Whatever you choose to spin it as, which is nothing more than normal and continuing heat and cooling cycles of the earth.
    Your arrogance with your last paragraph shows the nature of your hypocrisy. Basically proclaiming any dissenting opinion as unprofessional journalism.
    I have no doubt the editors of this site will delete my post as it does not follow their bias towards these Evehicles anyway. They have been pushing these things for several years. Probably to get the clicks for advertisers when REAL MC news is scarce.
    Frankly I could care less about them and will likely never buy one unless they create good cheap ones to use offroad or as a short trip grocery getter or fun rip on trails around the house.
    The only reason all the syncophants in my neighborhood buy the Tesla’s is due the massive discounting,tax credit and commuter lane access across the Bay bridge. Otherwise they would all be driving ICE luxury vehicles.

    • The natural heating and cooling of the earth has been going on for longer then any generations you or I can calendar. We are just in a different position now to be able to accurately document it.

      Hybrids are a viable stepping stone, but it’s not about using “a little less gas”. It’s about using NONE AT ALL.

      All the best,
      Aaron Lephart

    • Neutron73 says:

      YOu can’t be serious. YOu still don’t think that man-made activity has altered the global climate, to our detriment? You also deny that we are pumping far more CO2 and other gases into the atmosphere than natural sources can sustain?

      And I doubt those people who drive Teslas only do it to drive in the commuter lane. I think they do it because they don’t have to be raped at the gas pump every week when the oil executives decide to make more money.

      If I could afford it, I would buy a Tesla in a heartbeat. To be free from gasoline would be a godsend, plus I know I’m reducing my impact on the environment, because in California, power generation is either nuclear, NG or wind/solar, etc.

  34. pete Rasmussen says:

    Just read Carbon Carbon batteries are going into production in Japan, 20 times faster charge, 3000 cycles and made from cotton!! these will be a game changer, for sure.

  35. The “long tailpipe” myth was debunked years ago after it came up with the Prius. In that scenario it was determined that even if a plug in Prius (PHEV) was recharged using ONLY coal it would still be cleaner for the environment. And even the carbon from lithium production was break even @ 7500 miles. Sorry I have no link or source to provide but the story was lengthy and was really well done.

    How efficient is the gas motor (ICE)? 17% @ best. The electric motor wither it be DC or AC starts off at about 80% efficient. And the chargers are around the same.

    The climate is changing, and it will all come a lot sooner with better products if people stop casting doubt on the technology.

    Look @ Elon Musk with TESLA. He is taking great strides to eliminate any “issues” they have with the limitations of the technology. Want to take a 500+ mile trip? Recharge at any number of “Supercharger” stations around the country for FREE and take that trip!

    I have had a first generation Brammo electric motorcycle for 2+ years now. It serves my local commuting needs. The current products offered by Brammo are getting even better and faster.

    Zero motorcycles are also evolving to a serious motorcycle. From its first initial offerings in 2009/2010 to its current lineup, the progress is amazing. Going from a motorcycle that used near mountain bike level components to using motorcycle name brand equipment was a huge leap.

    I have seen things progress so quickly with electric vehicle technology. In the past year after completing a electric car conversion I have seen things get better and better. And this will happen at the OEM level even quicker, once more people get on board with electric transportation. And anything you can do to promote it would benefit everyone. There are current (not a pun) limitations with electrics but put it out there and let people decide. It’s here to stay. And the sooner you adopt it the better for everyone.

    Do you really want to be putting money in the pockets of people overseas who would just as soon see us dead?

    I have been fortunate in my life path to find my driving an electric car, electric motorcycle and recharge then both with solar on my house. Enough to make SCE send me a check for hundreds of dollars every year to reimburse me for the overage of power generated. This is an extreme case. You don’t need to all of this to make a difference.

    I would kindly ask you report this technology without bias. Otherwise it can easily misunderstood as unprofessional journalism and deemed as satire.

    All the best,
    Aaron Lephart

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Do you see bias in the linked report? Be specific if you do.

      • Not in that article itself. Other then I see that the 2010 VS the 2012 data is showing huge progression in the industry. I eagerly await an updated synopsis.

        Not saying this is the case with MD. But once in a blue moon I was in the motorcycle industry. And I know how “hard headed” game changing things can be when so many people are/would be affected. From sanctioning bodies in roadracing to other aftermarket company’s and OEM’s. This is not business as usual for the powersports industry and it makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

        Not embracing electric vehicle technology has become an exercise in gravity defiance.

        All the best,
        Aaron Lephart

    • YellowDuck says:

      Don’t forget that the generation of the electricity from natural gas or coal is only about 40% efficient at best, plus there are transmission losses, AC/DC conversion losses, battery losses, etc before you get to the 85 or 90% motor efficiency that you are comparing to the 17% efficiency of on ICE. Still much better than an ICE but not 5 x better on an energy basis – more like a bit less than 2 x better.

      BTW, for a fair comparison you also need to reduce the efficiency of gasoline from 100%. About 15% of its energy equivalent gets consumed in extraction, refining, delivery etc.

      One advantage of electrics that most people overlook is that in the US it amounts to powering cars with fossil fuels that are domestically abundant (coal and natural gas used to generate electricity) and reducing reliance on petroleum, much of which is imported. Also, if the challenge was really taken on properly the widespread adoption of clean goal technologies could make the balance sheet look quite a bit better.